The Diversity Roundtable was founded to support marginalized scholars within the German Association for American Studies and provide all members interested in critical diversity a platform for discussion and collective movement. Since its founding, the Diversity Roundtable has met once a year, during the GAAS annual conference, and has initiated a biannual meeting in the form of a day-long workshop or symposium. 

The Diversity Roundtable is led by a co-speaker team, who also facilitates ongoing exchange among roundtable members in the form of email announcements and occasional newsletters. If you are interested in joining the group or would like to get in touch with the Diversity Roundtable, please contact the current co-speakers Abigail Fagan, Chang Liu, and Dorothee Marx.

The Diversity Roundtable was founded by Eva Boesenberg and Mita Banerjee. 

Previous co-speakers of the Diversity Roundtable are Cedric Essi, Helen Gibson and Anne-Lena Oldehus.

The Diversity Roundtable has organized several events aimed at furthering diversity in the GAAS, including:

  •       “What is the GAAS’s responsibility as an academic institution in Germany?” Online town hall, co-organized with the GAAS Executive Board. April 16, 2021.
  •       The GAAS in 2030: Imagining Future Practices of Critical Diversity in American Studies. Online workshop hosted by the John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin. October 12, 2020.

 

The current co-speaker team is now in the process of organizing a hybrid symposium. Please join us! 

Call for Papers and Panels: Diversity Roundtable Symposium, “Moving toward collective action: activism and academia,” May 14-15, 2022; Kiel University and Zoom 

Over the past few years, the German Association for American Studies has been devoting public forums to engaging issues of diversity. A particularly important event of the past two years was the previous Diversity Roundtable co-speaker team’s 2020 workshop, “The GAAS in 2030: Imagining Practices of Critical Diversity in American Studies.” At this workshop, keynote roundtable speakers Christine Vogt-William and Courtney Moffett-Bateau, along with their moderator, Anne Potjans, discussed numerous methods for practitioners of American Studies to effect material change. These methods included actively listening to the requests and demands of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color; actively recruiting Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color for sustained and sustainable academic employment; and adjusting our understandings of excellence to account for profound socioeconomic and epistemological hierarchies in scholars’ profiles, particularly when it comes to hiring practices.

This symposium is designed to continue this conversation and sustain a climate of change. We are particularly interested in continuing to radically imagine more ethical academic environments, including in American Studies in Germany. With this context in mind, we invite panel and paper proposals that continue to imagine modes of collective action. 

We are especially interested in engaging questions such as the following: 

  • What is the history of academic exclusion in Germany, particularly on the basis of race, ethnicity, class, and ability? 
  • What impact has collective action had in response to historical exclusion in North America, Germany, and elsewhere, and how might we learn from this history in order to respond to ongoing exclusions now? 
  • How, for instance, has social movement against anti-Black racism, hetero- and cis-normativity, and ableism already impacted our universities and curricula? Where do mechanisms of exclusion persist?
  • How is the rhetoric about race and the recent debate about Critical Race Theory in the US relevant to our work in Germany as researchers, instructors, and intellectuals? What might be the benefit or consequence of drawing parallels to, for instance, German discourses of “Wissenschaftsfreiheit”? 
  • How have discourses of “objectivity” or fears of politicization historically been used to exclude diverse voices from academia?
  • How might discourses associated with American Studies assist us in accounting for racial and class-based exclusions in Germany, including specific structural formations of German anti-Blackness; anti-Asian racism during and prior to the pandemic; anti-Semitism; and the exclusion or marginalization of Eastern Europeans and Gastarbeiter, or migrant workers, and their descendants, among others? How might universities and their employees lead this charge?
  • How might we harness the institutional power of our organization and/or universities to participate in existing collective movement?  
  • What pedagogical/educational strategies can we use in the classroom when we teach American Studies, such as in literature, cultural/media studies, political science, and/or history, to advocate for diversity and material change?
  • How do the material and structural conditions of German academia, which have come up in movements such as #IchBinHanna, obstruct the creation of a more diverse university? 

In other words, the organizers of this symposium are keen to continue gathering material methods for the humanities and American Studies to indicate their investment in diversity, without simply advocating diversity as “ornamental multiculturalism” (Lugones/Price 1995) or “lip service” (Ahmed 2012). We are especially interested in moving away from individual discussions of marginalization and instead moving toward pedagogical and collective efforts for material change. 

We welcome proposals for individual papers (20 mins), panels, and other formats, such as roundtable discussions or other creative approaches. Individuals interested in submitting a paper proposal or other individually undertaken creative approach are invited to submit an abstract of 250 words and a short bio. If you are interested in submitting a panel/roundtable/or other collective effort, please provide an abstract of 250 words for the format as a whole, as well as paper titles (as relevant) and short biographies for each of the participants. Proposals are due by January 31, 2022 to DR co-speakers Abby Fagan (abigail.fagan@engsem.uni-hannover.de), Dorothee Marx (marx@anglistik.uni-kiel.de) and Chang Liu (chang.liu@hcts.uni-heidelberg.de). Notifications of acceptance will be distributed by February 15. If you have any questions or concerns regarding accessibility, you’re welcome to get in touch with Dorothee. 

Works cited:

Ahmed, Sara. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

Arghavan, Mahmoud, Nicole Hirschfelder, Luvena Kopp, and Katharina Motyl, eds. Who Can Speak and Who Is Heard/Hurt? Bielefeld: Transcript, 2019.

Khasnabish, Alex. “Ecologies of the radical imagination.” Information, Communication, and Society (2019), pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2019.1631368

Lugones, María and Joshua Price, “Dominant Culture: El Deseo por un Alma Pobre (The Desire for an Impoverished Soul).” In Multiculturalism from the Margins: Non-Dominant Voices on Difference and Diversity, edited by Dean Harris. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1995.

 

Position Statement, 20/01/2021

In light of the recent events in Washington, D.C., we, as co-speakers of the Diversity Roundtable of the German Association for American Studies, would like to publicly condemn white supremacy in all forms. While the violence of January 6 and ongoing threats in anticipation of the presidential inauguration today are alarming, this violence is neither surprising nor new. We strive to respond to these events, white supremacist and fascist groups, and their media presence by centering a praxis of care, carefulness, and an understanding of the cultural embeddedness of white supremacist violence and our responses to it. 

We would like to recognize that calls for punitive responses to the people and groups who breached the Capitol on January 6 will likely result in the strengthening of policies and praxes that unequally result in physical violence against and the limitation of the mobility and sovereignty of people of color. As Hoda Katebi, among others, has pointed out, although it may feel just to call those who breached the Capitol “terrorists,” such rhetoric strengthens “War on Terror” policies and ways of thinking, which primarily target people of African and Arab descent, as well as Muslims generally, on an international scale.

We are struck not only by the similarities between the development of mob cohesion on January 6 with the United States’ long legacy of repeated white mob violence, but also the resonances between these mobs and recent protests against government responses to the pandemic in Germany. These events remind us how entangled structural racism is with discourses of ableism and eugenics, anti-intellectualism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. We are particularly concerned by the apparent acceptability of anti-Asian racism in Germany and elsewhere over the past year. 

As we turn our gaze back to Washington DC today, we wish to urge American legislators and the incoming administration to commit to open discourse about the legacy of anti-Black racism in the United States specifically. The stark differences between the state response to Black Lives Matter protests and the premeditated violence of January 6 indicate once again how profoundly local and national American social structures support a white supremacist status quo. We echo the calls of numerous activists and politicians in demanding that members of the United States government establish and proactively support a truth and reconciliation commission devoted to the legacy of slavery and consistent state and federal refusals to entertain redress and reparations for the descendants of the generations of enslaved Africans who are largely responsible for the nation’s wealth today. We urge you to consider providing monetary support to organizations like the National African American Reparations Commission and to appeal to envoys to the US from your home countries, as well as friends and colleagues who are American citizens, to contact legislators in support of House Resolution 40, “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”

Drafting this statement has reminded us that our understanding of power structures in the United States and beyond is limited by our embodied experiences, the material we choose to study, and the media with which we choose to engage. We still have much to learn and would be grateful for your help in expanding our and our community’s list of organizations to support and methods of public intervention at this time, as well as resources for further engagement in antifascist and anti-racist praxis and thought.

Abigail Fagan, Chang Liu, and Dorothee Marx

 

Position Statement, 04/06/2020

We, the speakers of the Diversity Roundtable of the German Association for American Studies, want to take this moment to publicly condemn the recent wave of white supremacist violence and the ongoing systemic racism in the United States as well as in Germany. We want to express our condolences to the victims’ loved ones, and to affirm our support for liberation movements such as Black Lives Matter, at home and abroad.

Scholars like Patricia Hill Collins remind us of the necessity to always speak out against racist violence. Its pervasiveness can be overwhelming and produce silence by which such violence, in turn, can become neglected, invisible, and implicitly legitimated over time in hegemonic discourse (Hill Collins, “It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Race, Gender, and Nation” 66).

At the same time, we heed Sara Ahmed’s warning that mere declarations of anti-racist commitment and solidarity are not necessarily performative speech acts that translate into concrete actions or effects in and beyond our research and institutional lives (Ahmed, “Declarations of Whiteness”). What opportunities for individual and collective anti-racist action does this moment of global protest present? We urge you to consider actions such as donating to organizations that are actively combatting anti-Black violence in the United States and in Germany. We are also grateful to receive your ideas on further modes of support and public intervention that we can undertake as members of the Diversity Roundtable and the larger German Association for American Studies.

As academics from a wide range of scholarly traditions within American Studies, we have versatile capacities to unearth intersecting oppressive structures such as sexism, racism, ableism, and anti-queerness. We would like to encourage one another to acknowledge that there are many ways to oppose anti-Blackness.

Cedric Essi, Helen Gibson, Anna-Lena Oldehus